Only one Republican in the Minnesota Senate failed to gain re-election Tuesday. But that was the party leader, Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie.
So after the GOP got the news that their party now holds a majority of Senate seats, their first order of business was to pick a new leader.
On Thursday they chose a third-term senator from north central Minnesota, Paul Gazelka of Nisswa, Senate Republicans announced.
The new Republican majority in the Senate still has an asterisk by it. Tuesday's results showed the GOP taking a 34-33 lead. But two races are close enough to qualify for a recount, which won't happen until early December if the losing candidates request it.
But if that Republican lead holds up, Gazelka will be one of the most powerful people at the State Capitol.
As Senate majority leader, he would be one of the last three people at the negotiating table when talks about Minnesota's new budget get really serious next May. A fellow Republican, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, will also be there along with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
In accepting his new post Thursday, Gazelka acknowledged the need to cooperate with the other party and chamber, MPR News reports. “We’re going to have to figure out a way to work together at some level,” Gazelka said. “We’re going to work with the governor. We’re going to work with the House, and we’re going to do good things for Minnesota.”
On the other hand, Gazelka pointed out in the statement from Senate Republicans that voters "made a clear choice" by putting Republicans in charge of the Legislature.
He says higher taxes and healthcare costs have put stress on Minnesotans and promised: "The new Republican Senate will reverse this trend. We will have a bold agenda that begins with fixing the healthcare crisis created by the DFL. We will also pass a reasonable budget and put an end to silly spending."
Much of Gazelka's experience at the Capitol involves financial matters. He's served on the tax committee, the commerce committee, and the finance committee, as well as the panel on rules and administration.
His north central Minnesota district includes Cass, Wadena, Todd, and Morrison Counties.